An Emotionally Chaotic Beauty: Jhene Aiko takes us on a “Trip.
Very rare is it that listeners and music enthusiasts of all kinds receive authenticity in the music they listen to today. Most of the tunes are about the usual; show boating, foreign cars, who’s man (or woman) can be snatched, and an abundance in wealth. It is even more the rare that today’s artists release projects that explore their pain, suffering, loss, growth, and rebirth. In a time where people say that true R&B and Hip Hop is long gone, many desire real, they want something that they can relate to. Vulnerability is a factor that most of today’s music lacks. People want to experience feelings that they cannot quite express on their own.
No one relates more to this narrative of truthfulness then that of LA’s very own, Jhene Aiko
It has actually been a little over 3 years since the world’s ear received a project from the soulful, carefree crooner. However, with slight teasers, a few successful here-and-there singles, and her fairly “new” relationship under the scope of the media’s eye, the sexy 29-year-old enigma is back on the music scene with an all new project entitled “Trip.” Released on Thurs Sept. 22, Trip is Aiko’s sophomore album and follow up to 2014’s “Souled Out.” DJ Hustle
Along with this stealthy, 22 song release, the Grammy nominated beauty also gave fans a visual entitled “Trip (The Movie),” written by Aiko and co-directed with “Girls Trip” writer, Tracy Oliver, and a poetry book which both flow heavily with the album.
Trip is a M.A.P (Movie. Album. and Poetry book.) that presents complete artistic expression and experiences. It places the sensual, R&B songstress in such a lighting that the world has never seen her in before. She is more transparent and vulnerable than ever and fans will definitely love and appreciate
that as they take the “trip” with Aiko through this album. Themes instantly seen in Trip are: pain, suffering, love, heartbreak, heartache, loss, growth, healing, rebirth, and ultimately victory. From beginning to end, Trip takes listeners through a whirlwind of emotions, feelings, and vibes. The producer credits are abundant as the album contains production from the likes of: Cashmere Cat, Mike Zombe, Aiko’s ex-husband, Dot da Genius, the iconic, “No I.D,” Benny Blanco, Fisticuffs, and more!
As the album begins listeners immediately feel psychedelic tones with the stimulating first track, “Lsd.” Here, pain and coping seems to be the focal points as Aiko reflects on the losing of her brother and best friend, Miyagi, to brain cancer in 2012. “How you like it up there? What’s your view from there? “Aiko uses this song not only to release the pain she feels from the absence of her brother, but also to reveal her very interesting drug usage in order to cope with the pain and escape reality and connect with Miyagi. “Lsd” sets the tone for the rest of the album and furthermore propels the theme of a “trip,” which listeners will see as they continue to listen.
What is very appreciated about this album is its story-like core. Aiko tells a story that not only incites the listener’s ears audio wise, but also visually! The next track, “Jukai,” shows Aiko leaving a message to her loved ones (and anyone else who may be looking for her) letting them know that before she leaves for this “trip,” not to be concerned about her and that she is and will be ok. The tone of the song is very mellow, very serene which is ironic as she intends to isolate herself from everyone. Aiko confidently states, “Hell is not a place, Hell is not a certain evil. Hell is other people…or the lack thereof, and their lack of love.”
The song demonstrates the beauty in suffering, the magnificence in losing yourself in order to find yourself. “one of the first standouts of the album, “Jukai” makes Aiko very human. It strips her of the celebrity that everyone is used to and shows a truly open person beyond that of Hollywood, designer clothes, and mega hits. The production is immaculate and her ad-libs take you straight to Heaven. Lastly, “Jukai” introduces Aiko to the world as Penny, a nickname given to her by her grandfather. It also introduces and collides aspects of the visual film to the album.
Listeners arrive at one of the album’s highly recognized songs, “While We’re Young.” Released in June, this track is a true, personal favorite. It exudes the bubbly feeling equated with experiencing new love, being young, and wanting to spend the rest of your life with that one person.
Here, Aiko bellows “Baby, while we’re young, I think we should do something crazy. Like say, f**k everyone, and just run away from the daily routine. Yeah, you know what I mean. I’m tellin’ everybody you’re mine and I like it. And I really hope you don’t mind, I can’t fight it.
The production on this particular song is so warm, optimistic, and contagious as the free-spirited wonder raves about going wherever her counterpart is. She is in love and it feels amazing.
The ride continues with the next two tracks that features “Twenty88” counterpart, and boyfriend, Mr. Sean Don himself, Big Sean. The two make such art together when they record music. “Moments” follows the same pattern of “While We’re Young” and focuses on love and really being in the moment with that loved one. Sean, who has been having a great year so far adds a great verse to the track (as usual) where he assures his love that regardless who is around, all he needs is her, and that he has the eyes and hots only for Aiko.
“Olla (Only Lovers Left Alive)” is truthfully the most unexpected record on Trip. The song finds Aiko venturing more into a pop and disco vibe. “Olla” tells a story as Aiko envisions a setting and of the world ending in this weird sci-fi apocalyptic way with only lovers’ lives being spared.
The singer shouts, “Fireballs falling out, out of the sky, sky, ricocheting off the brain into the eye, eye; it’s the fate we created in our mind, mind. If we stay, we’ll be hated. Looks like, we’re the only lovers left alive.”
This song further proves Aiko’s skill as an artist as she pushes herself out of the box both with the production and delivery. The song is very catchy and makes for a great radio / Billboard entry. Again, as expected, Sean delivers another verse containing swift, clever bars, and metaphors which further exhibit Sean’s adoration for Aiko and the love the two contain for one another. Melodic and contagious, the song definitely is one of those timeless love songs that will be played for many years to come.
At the next pit stop, listeners find themselves mellowed out, relaxed, and at peace as they enjoy “Sativa” featuring the wildly entertaining, enigmatic Swae Lee. “Sativa” is a completely smooth record and is a top record on the album. The production on this track is absolutely hypnotic and follows Swae Lee’s mesmerizing voice. Just as its title, “Sativa,” is completely… stimulating from beginning to end. Jhene’s voice is soft, seductive, and more mind-altering than ever as she talks that talk to her lover.
She and Swae Lee effortlessly create the perfect intoxicating love song as they sing, “Why you make it so complicated? Off the drink, we concentratin. I know you won’t leave me hangin’ | Smokin’ w*** out the container. We spend cash for our entertainment. There’s more where that came from, that’s all I’m sayin. It’s me and you and we makin’ arrangements.”
As listeners near the end of the first half of the album, they begin to approach the second half of the journey… the darker side of the “trip.” This is where Jhene reveals herself even more than anyone would have ever expected before and it turns the album into a beautiful body of work.
“Nobody” begins this theme of revelation as we see Jhene in an utmost rare form. Here the singer lets everything hang as she speaks on her inner demons with drugs and prescribed medications which she would take in order to cope with the pain she felt. Aiko briefly delivers a timeline of her life showcasing major life changing moments.“(Take this) back to ’88 when everything was great, then life had just begun.
- (Take this) it is ’89 now, everything is fine now. I am only one.
- (Take this) wait for the 2008 summer. Ima be a mother, wow.
- (Take this) 2012 summer, it just got tougher. I don’t have my brother now.”
“Overstimulated” and “Bad Trip” showcases a more cinematic, dramatic Jhene. “Overstimulated” is all about substances, stimulation, and dependency. Through dreamy production and slow cloudy lyrics, Jhene combines drug use and love in a sort of symbiotic pair. While the lyrics may seem to only speak to that of drugs they also have a double meaning that relates to Jhene’s love and her dependency on that person. At the end of the song, Jhene’s theatrical side shows as she begins to scream and yell. It appears that the young crooner has gotten way too high which has caused her to experience a “bad trip.”
The story continues and flows right into “Bad Trip.” Jhene is hallucinating and experiencing many feelings and thoughts (basically she is tripping all the way out from the drugs). Again, Aiko’s lyrics play not only on the drugs she has taken but also on the past, failed relationship that she has experienced. At the end of the song, Jhene can be heard yelling yet again, as she hallucinates from the abundance of drugs. It is literally as if she has completely lost her mind and herself at this point. These songs symbolize pain, suffering, and the toxic factors that tried to take Jhene out as she journeys to reclaim her identity.
The majority of the second half plays with the psychedelic realm, containing many funky beats, whimsical loops, peaceful ballads, and mind-altering visuals.
The voyage reaches one of its lovelier destinations as listeners arrive at “Sing to Me.” The song calls on Jhene’s precious daughter, Namiko, as she effortlessly delivers her beautiful vocals with her mom. It is one of the album’s purest, most beautiful, heartfelt pieces, as listeners hear and (mentally visualize) Jhene and Namiko sing back and forth to one another. The song shows the genuine love the two have for each other. It is definitely a tear jerker and oozes positivity in every aspect.
While nearing the final mark of this mystic journey, the listener is caught reflecting to the meditative, “Frequency.” Produced by Mali Music, this song strips down to a rather simple production mimicking that of a Sunday morning church song. Jhene’s voice ranges in emotion and pitch. It is as if she is unconcerned with how she even sounds. Her passion emits throughout the song like the strongest beam possible. “Frequency possesses such a heavy anointing that it is hard to not play it over and over. It comes off like a cry out to God. Jhene asks Him to not only guide her, but guide her seed (Namiko), her city, and the generation as a whole. The song paints a picture of redemption and revitalization as we reach the end of the album. It flows directly into the album’s next song, “Ascension.”
Aiko chants, “Free my city, free my seed. Bless my situation, give me freedom. Bless the generation, give them mercy. Bless the situation, oh” DJ Hustle
With every trip, there are sharp turns, and rough roads, and obstacles. There are moments where we feel lost, uncertain of what to expect on the way there, but as we reach the end, we are able to find ourselves and grow. “Ascension” symbolizes the complete essence of rebirth. This record is probably one of the most relatable songs on the album. Jhene finds herself questioning her inner self about why she does the things she does, and what she seeks to gain from this path she is on.
“Ascension” is Jhene regaining her identity. She finally feels like she has made it out of the hell that she has suffered through for so long and for once, it finally appears that she can see the light.
“Ascension” is so relatable because there are many moments in life where we as human beings suffer. Life is not easy, there are many excruciating hardships, confusion, doubt, and problems that arise, but we survive, we continue to stand and we push through. “Ascension” says while the road to redemption may not be the easiest, it can be reached. The song is angelic and only gets better as it progresses. If Jhene’s voice is not enough for you, add that of the legendary Brandy and now the song has entered into a completely new height.
Brandy and Jhene create such a heavenly harmony that it could easily makes listeners weep. The lyrics come from deep within, the production is divine, and it is if God is speaking through the two artists as they passionately generate a melody unlike anything heard before. The two sing,
“I’m on my way, I’m on my way / I’m on my way, I’m on my way to heaven. I’m on my way, I’m on my way / I’m on my way, if I can make it out of this hell.” It is definitely a memorable moment on the album.
The last destination is reached with Trip’s last song, named after the album, “Trip.” The song is perfect for the end as it seems that Jhene is more conscious, more aware, and stronger. While she still may be enduring the “trip,” she has found herself and has acknowledged her demons. Her identity is stronger than ever. With the help of eerie yet soothing Mali Music, the two deliver an invigorating melody that listeners will be able to relate to. The song sums up the trip. It shows that while although we may all go through trips, trials, and tribulations, as we grow from these experiences, our vision grows clearer. We become more aware of who we are. The “trip” may not be quick but it is it worth it in the end because the result is beautiful. It is ok to be unsure of what is next, that is the beauty in the journey.
Trip is definitely an album that has to be played multiple times. There are moments and interpretations that may not be caught on the first, second, or third listen, but it is definitely worth the listen. While 22 songs may initially seem overwhelming, the album is liberating, vulnerable, and raw. Jhene Aiko takes artistic expression to a completely new dimension and raises the bar on what music connoisseurs want to see in future projects and bodies of work of other artists. It is extremely personal, relatable, and relevant to the lives of listeners from all over and many will appreciate it because of that. And for that, we thank you Jhene. Trip is now available on all music streaming services and iTunes now!